Former Irish athlete and 5000m world champion Eamonn Coghlan traveled to Kenya. On his trip, he went to visit a school in Iten and while he was chatting with the students (a 40-50 classroom), he asked them who's a runner? No more than 3 raised their hands...that's because others know they can run but are not ''runners''. As in Kenya even in East Africa, if you see yourself as a runner is because you train and race. You represent your school at meetings, the police, the army or very few for private clubs.
When a guy like kipsang or kimetto says he started running at age 26, that means he started training seriously (like a pro) at age 26.
For instance, Kimetto was a farmer before 2010. And Goeffrey Mutai discovered him...hold on now, you think he discovered him while on his run and saw that boy and went wow what a milking machine!!! No it means, Kimetto was training too, either he went on fartlek sessions or track workouts and kimetto proved them to be a man and was invited to join the group.
Now, they had to make him get a manager or a shoe contract (sponsor). Kimetto consider that period where he started running (cause now, he is on the ''list'' and can have in income, train full time and hire somebody else to take care business (cows) back home).
You can't just go run with these guys in a fartlek session at altitude with zero training, it takes high motivation, years of training and confidence.
When friends of yours are posting great times on roads and you know they were no better than you when young, you know you can do it too. On the top that, they get income from it (not shabby paydays, we're talking about millions in shillings of course). Some are willing to die man to get that one opportunity to even win a single race of 20,000$.